Christina Bellantoni, The Washington Times, Feb. 5
RICHMOND — The House today is expected to pass a bill that would prohibit Virginia’s state-sponsored colleges and universities from enrolling illegal aliens.
The bill, authored by John S. Reid, Henrico Republican, moved forward yesterday during its second reading by a voice vote along party lines. The bill is expected to pass because of the Republican majority.
There are 61 Republicans, 37 Democrats and 2 independents in the House. The bill will be sent to the Senate Education and Health Committee after Feb. 17, the day known as Crossover, when the House and Senate exchange bills. The bills that pass are sent to the governor.
Democrats opposed the bill, deeming it unfair.
“If this bill passes it will provide that public institutions of higher education may not knowingly accept or enroll any illegal alien and it directs each upon discovering the enrollment of an illegal alien to dismiss that person,” Mr. Reid said during the debate yesterday.
“Individuals who are in this country legally should have the opportunity to attend our state colleges and universities and should not be displaced by those who are here illegally,” he said.
The bill also would require public colleges and universities to expel any illegal aliens who are enrolled mistakenly.
State Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, supports the bill, but Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, opposes it.
Delegate Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Democrat, also opposed the bill yesterday.
“A child who was brought here by their parents without having anything to do with it, went through our school system, does a really good job, gets good grades and good SAT scores should be able to get in a good college and university in Virginia,” she said. “Now that child would not be able to go to our schools in Virginia.”
Miss Van Landingham also said the bill would handicap the state’s economy and society.
During the debate, Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, asked Mr. Reid how the bill, if passed, would be enforced and about the penalties involved.
Mr. Reid said he couldn’t answer the questions but that he had hoped no one would violate the law intentionally.
At a House Education Committee meeting on Monday, Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, Arlington Democrat, had argued that the state is better served if it has educated immigrants working in good jobs.
Virginia has an estimated 570,000 immigrants, including many who were brought here by their parents and consider themselves Americans, Mr. Ebbin said.
The committee passed the bill in a 14-7 vote.
Also on Monday, the committee tabled a bill by Mr. Ebbin that would have allowed illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria, including signing a pledge to seek legal residency. Virginia law requires schools to charge illegal aliens out-of-state tuition.
Mr. Ebbin’s bill comes a year after his predecessor, Democrat L. Karen Darner, filed similar legislation, which was defeated. Miss Darner retired in the fall.
Last year, lawmakers in both chambers overwhelmingly passed a measure that would have required illegal immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition at state universities. Mr. Warner vetoed the measure, saying students who graduated from Virginia schools deserve a chance at the “American dream” with fair college tuition.
Mr. Kilgore said Mr. Warner’s veto was irrelevant because state law requires schools to charge illegals higher tuition.
In fall 2002, Mr. Kilgore had issued an opinion recommending that all Virginia colleges deny admission to illegal immigrants.
During the committee meeting Monday, representatives of George Mason University, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, and a coalition of Hispanic organizations spoke against Mr. Reid’s bill and in support of Mr. Ebbin’s legislation.
Claire Gastanaga, who represented the Hispanic coalition, said admissions decisions should be left to the governing boards of the colleges. She said the legislature never intervened when Virginia Military Institute was denying admissions to women — a policy struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Miss Gastanaga also noted that a lawsuit challenging seven Virginia universities’ refusal to enroll illegal immigrants was filed last year in federal court in Alexandria, and that the legislature historically does not pass legislation affecting pending litigation.
In that lawsuit, five of the students revealed themselves only as John or Jane Does. Last month, a federal judge threw out their portion of the case because of the anonymity. At least one person has said they will reveal their name, however, and the case is pending.